It’s amazing how far we’ve come in the speed of our computing. While MIPs isn’t a perfect benchmark, as it doesn’t account for the efficiency of the instructions, it will do for our simple comparison.   To put the difference the years have made into perspective: 1 second of processing by the current i7 champ would have taken the best 1985 computer over 4 hours 29 minutes!  Another fun comparison is that the new iPhone 4S clocks in at about 5,000 MIPs which is faster than a computer from 1999.

Year Chip Millions of Instructions Per Second
1985 Intel 386DX 11 MIPS at 33 MHz
1992 Intel 486DX 54 MIPS at 66 MHz
1996 Intel Pentium Pro 541 MIPS at 200 MHz
1999 Intel Pentium III 2,054 MIPS at 600 MHz
2003 Intel Pentium 4 9,726 MIPS at 3.2 GHz
2008 Intel Core i7 920 82,300 MIPS at 2.66 GHz
2011 Intel Core i7 3960X 177,730 MIPS at 3.33 GHz

Here’s another fun comparison: an old 8MB vs a new 8GB (8000MB) memory card:

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